Chiangmai observations

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I've posted some photos from my second week in Chiangmai, but haven't finished the weblog posting from that time period as yet. It's proving fairly difficult to write, because it deals with some disturbing subject matter that may well have repercussions for people who will continue to live in Chiangmai long after I'm gone. Hopefully this can be resolved soon.

In the meantime, some random observations:

  • Thailand is exotic, for sure, but Thais regularly do something that is almost beyond our ken, especially those of us who live in Toronto. Read on. You'll be amazed. If you're walking down the street (soi), and a Thai is walking the other towards you, and you look at her/him, s/he'll look back! See? Confused yet? They don't turn their faces away to avoid acknowledging your existence, like all decent citizens do? No, they don't. And then, get this, if you smile at her/him, s/he'll smile back! Sometimes they'll even smile first! And if you say hello ("sawasdee kap" for a guy, "sawasdee ka" for a gal), they'll be pleased you did, and say it back! Amazingly, upon being confronted with the existence of a total stranger, Thais don't assume from the get-go that s/he's an asshole/potential rapist. Rather, they assume it's a human being they're being exposed to, and behave as if that's so. I know, pretty backward.
  • Thankfully, the same can't be said for my fellow farangs (foreigners). Backpackers, German tourists, retired couples, whoever, you encounter them on the street, and if you manage somehow to meet their eyes, they'll react with shock, like they're about to melt into the ground like the Wicked Witch of the West. Sometimes, of course, the more sophisticated of them will realize that they've entered into an unwanted "social situation" that has to be handled and exited quickly and skillfully, and they'll smile, say hello, and walk on. Occasionally I've managed to engage a fellow farang in conversation, but it takes some forceful derring-do.
  • And while I'm on the subject of my fellow farangs, why do they all look like such sourpusses? Here they are, having what should be the time of their lives, living very cheaply compared to home, eating some of the best food the world has to offer (unless they're confining themselves to the "western" section of menus), being catered to endlessly, and they walk around looking like they could kill. This may have something to do with the feeling that the Thais are after their money, which is true—many don't really like farangs all that much, and don't give a shit about whether they're happy, but still have to make a living. But come on! They're satisfied with taking us for so little! Enjoy it while it lasts.
  • A phenomenon I find very amazing is the love affair Thai dogs have with the side of the road. Now I want you to know that I've seen some of the mangiest dogs ever in Thailand, very old, scraps of fur missing all over, eyes wide shut, one or more legs missing, apparently living on scraps of whatever gets tossed aside. But mangy or no, many, many dogs in Thailand take their naps right at the side of the road, in the dirt but noses almost on the pavement. Don't they get run over? Apparently not—they're old!
  • Photographs I regret missing:
    • A buddhist monk in the back of a sorng-taou (a covered pick-up truck that serves as a kind of taxi), lighting up a cigarette
    • The two guys on a motorbike, one driving while the other holds a fairly large touring bicycle upside down
    • Photos of Thai dogs lying by the side of the road

To be clear: none of this is to be taken as a criticism of any or all Thais, or any element of Thai culture. It's simply description.

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